Sunday, September 26, 2010

The Joys of Milkweed

What is a weed? I have heard it said that there are sixty definitions. For me, a weed is a plant out of place. ~Donald Culross Peattie

Our milkweed is nearly dead now, and the seed pods are beginning to burst -- sending forth their fluff with one tiny seed attached to each. I've only had one taker on the seeds I've offered (enjoy them, Andy!) and I still have literally thousands more that I'm harvesting this year. In case you don't think that helping the nearly endangered monarch is enough reason to grow your own patch (I have common milkweed, which is native to the entire USA), then let me give you more reasons.

While we collect the seeds we are also collecting the fluff. Why? Did you know: In World War II, schoolchildren across the Midwest collected thousands of pounds of milkweed fluff to stuff life preservers for the armed forces in the Pacific, because kapok, the normal material used for this purpose, came from Japanese-occupied Indonesia and was unavailable. (Source)

Mature seed pods contain quite large quantities of floss. This is a lovely white silky material with a number of applications. It can be used as a kapok substitute for stuffing soft toys etc, and being very water repellent, it has been used in life preservers where its buoyancy can keep a person afloat for days. Although difficult to spin on its own, it can be mixed with other fibres to make cloth and it has also been used for making candle wicks. (Source)

DD is keeping hers until we have enough to stuff a small pillow. It's actually fairly easy to collect if you get the seed pods before they open. You hold the tip of the fluff, and gently slide the seeds right off.

Still not convinced? Did you know that you can eat Milkweed? Yes, apparently you can. I'm thinking I'll give it a try next spring -- use the ones that grown in my lawn that I'm pulling up anyway and see. Here's a few things I've found:

It provides edible shoots (like asparagus), flower bud clusters (like broccoli), and immature pods (like okra). The soft silk inside the immature pods is a unique food, and the flowers are also edible. Milkweed conveniently provides one or more edible parts from late spring until late summer, making it one of the most useful wild greens to learn. (Source)

I have also found indications that you can use the oil in soaps, the stems as a twine replacement and that it might even cure warts! I know the flowers are beautifully scented and provide weeks of just amazing perfume as well.

Understand that milkweed is an aggressive crop and will spread and grow if it likes where it's living, so you need a bit of space for it. But if you HAVE space, I highly encourage you to make a place for it. I have seeds if you'd like them -- just email me. What I don't share, I'll be sprinkling around the conservation land behind my house, so they won't go to waste -- but I'd sure love to start a milkweed revolution!


You Are a Wii

You could be described as playful and fun loving. You enjoy video games, but you don't take them too seriously.

You love to be active, and you're open to doing almost anything. You are a good sport and enjoy all sorts of games.

You are smart and resourceful. You know how to enjoy yourself, and you're put others at ease.

You are very social, and you are quite charming. People love being around you - and playing games with you.

About 75% right... wish I HAD a Wii instead of being one. ;-)


Ceri Hebert said...

Wish I had the land to do that. Maybe I'll have to ask my mom if she wants to help the cause. Our town has a nice little field by the community garden that's solid milkweed. I always think of you when I pass it. :)

Brandy said...

I wish we had the space as well. I wish you continued success with your milkweed!
Hope you've had a fabulous day!